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2023-08-30 16:05:29

Learning a language Speak it like you’re playing a video game _ Marianna Pascal _ TEDxPenangRoad

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So for the past 20 years , I've been helping Malaysians and other Southeast Asians to speak better English .

And through training thousands of Southeast Asians , I've discovered a very surprising truth .

I've discovered that how well somebody communicates in English actually has very little to do with their English level .

It has a lot to do with their attitude towards English .

There are people out there who have a very , very low level of English and they can communicate very , very well .

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One of them that I remember was a student , a participant of mine named Faisal .

He was a factory supervisor , English level , very , very low .

But this guy could just sit and listen to anybody very calmly clearly .

And then he could respond absolutely , express his thoughts beautifully at a very low level of English .

So today I want to share with you what is so different about people like Faisel , how do they do it ?

And second of all , why is this so important ?

Not only to you but to your Children , to your community and to the future of Malaysia .

And third of all , what's one thing you can do starting today if you want to speak with that , calm , clear confidence that people like Faisal has .

So , first of all , what is so different ?

How do people like Faisal do it ?

So to answer that question , I'm gonna take you back about 10 years .

OK .

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So I was training staff at that time and my daughter at that time was taking piano lessons and I started to notice two really strong similarities between my daughter's attitude or thinking towards playing the piano and a lot of Malaysians thinking or attitude towards English .

Now , first of all , I should tell you , my daughter absolutely hated piano , hated the lessons , hated practicing .

This is my daughter practicing piano .

Ok .

This is as good as it got .

This is the real thing and she dreaded going to piano lessons because to my daughter going to piano lessons , she was filled with this sort of dread because it was all about not screwing up , right .

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Because like for a lot of piano students , to both my daughter and her teacher , her success in piano was measured by how few mistakes she made .

Now , at the same time , I noticed that a lot of Malaysians went into English conversations with the same sort of feeling of dread , the sort of feeling that they were going to be judged by how many mistakes they were going to make and whether or not they were going to screw up .

Now , the second similarity that I noticed was to do a self image you see , my daughter , she knew what good piano sounded like .

Right .

Because we've all heard good piano and she knew what her level was and she knew how long she'd have to play for , to speak to play like that .

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And a lot of Malaysians I noticed had this idea of what good proper English is supposed to sound like and what they , I see a lot of you nodding and what their English sounded like and how far they'd have to go to get there .

And they also felt like they were like my daughter just bad , bad piano player , bad English speaker , right ?

My English is not so good .

Sorry .

So I could see these similarities , but I still couldn't figure out , ok , what is it about these people like faisal that are so different that can just do it smoothly , calmly with confidence .

And one day I discovered that answer and I discovered it quite by chance .

It was a day when my computer broke down and I had to go to a cyber cafe now .

Ok .

It was my first time and I discovered cyber cafes are disgusting places .

Ok .

They're really gross .

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They're smelly and they're filled with boys and they're all playing noisy , violent games .

They're just disgusting places .

But I have to go there .

So I sit down and I start noticing this guy beside me and I become very , very interested in this guy next to me .

Now , this guy is playing this game .

That is basically , it's like shooting people until they die and that's it .

Right .

That's the game .

Right .

And , and I'm noticing that this guy is not very good .

He's like , in fact , terrible .

Right .

Because I'm looking , and I'm seeing like , a lot of shooting and , and , and , and not much dying .

Right .

But what really interested me was behind this lousy player were three of his friends , sort of standing there watching him play .

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And what I really noticed was even though this guy was terrible , even though his friends were watching him , there was no embarrassment , there was no feeling of being judged .

There was no shyness .

In fact , quite the opposite .

This guy is like totally focused on the bad guys , smile on his face .

All he can think about is , is , is killing these guys , right ?

And I'm watching him and I suddenly realized this is it , this is the same attitude attitude that people like Faisal have when they speak English , just like this guy .

When Faisal goes into an English conversation , he doesn't feel judged .

He's entirely focused on the person that he's speaking to and the result he wants to get , he's got no self awareness , no thoughts about his own mistakes .

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Now , I wanna share with you a real true example to paint a picture of somebody who speaks English , like they're playing piano and someone who speaks English , like they're playing a computer game and this is a true story happened to me , um , a while ago I was in a pharmacy .

I had to buy Omega .

My doctor said I should get Omega and I go to the shelf .

There's tons of Omega , there's Omega that's high in DH A Omega that's high in EPA .

And I don't know which one to buy .

Now , the sales rep happened to be there and I saw she was like this well dressed professional woman .

I walk over to her and I see this look as she sees me .

This sort of , it's a look I recognize very well .

Her eyes go all wide .

It's sort of that panic .

Oh my God .

I got to speak to a native speaker and she's gonna judge me and notice my mistakes .

I go up to her and I explain my situation which , which Omega do I get .

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And she starts explaining to me everything about DH A and EPA you could possibly imagine .

She speaks very quickly goes all around in circles and when she finishes no idea what to buy .

I'm so I turned to the girl behind the counter .

Now the girl behind the counter , I heard her before her English level is very low .

But when I walk over to her , this girl , there's no fear .

In fact , she's just looking at me , you know that look like .

Yeah .

OK .

So how , yeah , I've been in Malaysia a long time so I go up to her and I explain the problem .

E PDH A she looks at me , she says , OK , um uh EPA for heart DH A for brain , your heart .

OK .

Or not .

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So I said , yeah .

Yeah , I said my heart is really , it's , I think it's pretty good .

She says your brain , OK ?

Or not .

I said , yeah .

No , no , my brain is not as good as it used to be .

She looked , she said you take omega problem solved , right ?

So we've got two different kinds of communicators .

We've got the one who's got a high level , but totally focused on herself and getting it right ?

And therefore very ineffective .

We've got another one low level , totally focused on the person she's talking to and getting a result effective and there lies the difference .

Now , why is this distinction so important ?

Not just to you , to your Children , but to the future of Malaysia and countries like Malaysia .

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And to answer that , let's take a look at who actually is speaking English in the world today .

OK .

So if we looked at all of the English conversations in the whole world taking place right now on planet Earth , we would see that for every native speaker like me , there are five non native speakers .

And if we listen to every conversation in English on planet Earth , right now , we would notice that 96% of those conversations involved non native English speakers , only 4% of those conversations are native speaker to native speaker .

This is not my language anymore .

This language belongs to you .

It's not an art to be mastered .

It's just a tool to use to get a result .

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And I want to give you a , a real life example of what English is today in the world .

Real English today .

This is another true story .

I was at a barbecue a little while ago .

This was a barbecue for engineers , engineers from all over the world .

And uh they were making hot dogs .

Now , some of the hot dogs were regular hot dogs and some were these , these cheese hot dogs , you know , with the cheese in the middle .

French engineer is cooking the hot dogs and he turns to this Korean engineer and he says , uh would you like a hot dog ?

And the Korean guy says , yes , please .

He says , uh do you want the cheese ?

And the Korean guy looks around at the table .

He says , uh I I know sea cheese French guy says , ah the hot dog is contains the cheese Korean guy doesn't understand him , right ?

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So the French engineer tries again .

The the hot dog is um is making from uh with the cheese Korean guy still doesn't understand .

He tries again .

He says as a hot dog is coming uh is um coming from no , is coming from a hot dog .

Korean guy cannot understand .

Now , this Japanese engineer who's been listening to this conversation turns to the Korean engineer and he says a integra he understands , everybody understands .

So this is what English is today .

It's just a tool to play around with to get a result like a computer game .

Now , the challenge is that we know in schools all around the world , right ?

English is not really being taught , like it's a tool to play with .

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It's still being taught like it's an art to master and students are judged more on correctness than on clarity .

Some of you might remember the old comprehension exam in school .

Does anybody remember in school when you would , you would get a question about a text that you read ?

You'd have to read through some text , right ?

And then answer a question to show that you understood the text .

And this may have happened to you that you showed that you understood the text , but you got a big X because you made a little grammar mistake like this student .

Now this student clearly understood paragraph four , but no , not correct because he left the letter N off the word environment .

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But in the real world , what would matter in the real world , what would matter is , did you understand the email or did you understand your customer so that you can go ahead and take action ?

Now , the problem that I see here over and over is that people take the attitude they developed about English in school and they bring it into their adult life and into their work .

And if you're in a stressful situation and you're having a conversation and you're trying to give a result to someone and say it correctly , your brain multitasks , it cannot do two things at once .

And what I see is the brain just shutting down .

And you may recognize these three symptoms of the brain shutting down .

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The first one is that your listening goes , someone's talking to you and you're so busy thinking about how you're going to respond and , and express yourself correctly .

You don't actually hear what the other person said .

And I can see a lot of nodding in the audience .

The second thing to go is you're speaking your mind sort of shuts down .

And that vocabulary you do know just disappears and you , the words don't come out .

The third thing to go is your confidence .

And the worst thing about this is you may only be confident because you cannot express yourself clearly , but to the person talking to you , they may misunderstand this as a lack of confidence in your ability to do the job to perform .

So if you want to speak English like Faisel with that great confidence .

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Here's the one thing that you can do when you speak , don't focus on yourself , focus on the other person and the result you want to achieve .

Imagine a next generation of Malaysians all with that wonderful confidence in communication that Faisal has at any level of English because let's remember that English today , it's not an art to be mastered , it's just a tool to use to get a result and that tool belongs to you .

Thank you .


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